This week in our Church we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. If I were to ask someone “what’s your favorite scripture verse?” most of the time, I would hear one of two verses: Either John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son.” or the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” There’s something about the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that really captures our hearts. Just the image of a strong and kind shepherd, who on one hand is strong enough to protect us against the wolves and predators, but is kind enough to call us by name and encourage us to follow him.
The part we hear this year, I think, is especially appropriate for us in the middle of the crazy world we’re living in right now. Jesus reminds us that the sheep know his voice and they will not follow a stranger. If we turn on the TV today or scroll through things on the computer, it’s so easy to hear so many conflicting voices. It can be hard to figure out which one to trust. For me, I find it comforting to realize that the same issues existed in Jesus’s day. In different ways, finding the right voice to listen to has been a struggle for us since the beginning of time.
That’s why it’s so essential, especially now, to really come to know and hear the voice of Jesus. There are plenty of ways we can really come to know Jesus’s voice. The most essential of them though, is in His word. I mentioned it at a daily mass this week, and I’d challenge us to really think about it. When we’re cooped up at home, pull out your bible and start reading. If you’re not sure where to start, I always suggest starting with the Gospel of Luke and then the book of Acts. It’s an easy way to hear the whole story from Jesus’s birth, up through the early church, and ending with a church that has most of the recognizable parts of our own Catholic Church today.
We’re also blessed to have access to FORMED. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do. One of my favorites is their amazing audiobook section. They have a really nice collection of audio dramas, like those old time radio stories, including the Gospels and some of the rest of the New Testament, and it’s all free to you, paid for by a grant from the Independent Catholic Foundation. The more we dive into God’s word, and into the Saints, the more we’re able to recognize the shepherd’s voice when He calls us, the more we’re able to find his voice in the loud confusion that is the world.
In our community this week, there’s some exciting things happening. Our Bishop just announced that he’s forming a task force to figure out how and when we’ll be able to reopen our Churches. I know that he’s just as anxious as we all are to get back to normal, and I hope we can work together to find a manageable strategy to return everyone to the sacraments.
I’d also ask you to keep two men from our diocese in your prayers. It was just announced that at 10:00am on May 30th, Mark Gregor of Somerset, and Mike Pleva of Holy Rosary, Altoona will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. I know both Mike and Mark well and they’re both very solid men who will make wonderful priests when they are ordained next spring. Due to our current situation, they will both ordained in a private mass, but their ordination will be streamed online. We’ll share the links when they become available.
I hope you’ll also visit our diocesan news site,
http://proclaim.dioceseaj.org. One of our shut-ins, Catherine Shaffer, was in the news describing how grateful she was to be able to see her Church. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see our parish in the news for positive things.
On the streaming front, I’ve been working with Ron from Music Mart in town, and we’ve gotten things sounding pretty good in the main Church. We’ve also been working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes. With that, I’m pleased to announce that this week we’ll be beginning to stream the mass both on Facebook AND on YouTube. A number of people have contacted me that they have Smart TVs and would be able to put mass on their TV if it were on YouTube. It took a little bit of technical work, but I think we’re ready. Links to the YouTube channel will be on our website. I would ask all of you to please click those links and subscribe. There are certain functions that won’t get enabled for us until we get 100 subscribers to the channel.
This week, I also started having Morning Prayer before our daily masses. Morning Prayer is a part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer that all priests, deacons, and religious pray daily. As the official prayer of the Church, it’s based around the Psalms. Some of you might remember in days gone by on special occasions often Churches had an evening celebration called “Vespers”. Vespers is simply the Latin name for Evening Prayer, another part of the Liturgy of the Hours. If you’ve never experienced it before, I’d invite you to take a look at the special page I put up on our website describing it. Please consider joining us. It can be a little complicated at first, but modern apps make it much easier to follow. I’d invite you to just listen the first time or two, then maybe find the app and follow along. It’s a good, and easy way to “pray without ceasing” and to continue to keep the voice of Jesus alive in all of our hearts.
Please know that all of you are always in my prayers and I look forward to the day when we can gather again here in Church.
- Fr Matt
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.